Wild grasses, crops, and grassy weeds are known to host Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) and its vector, the wheat curl mite (WCM). Their relative importance as a source of WSMV was evaluated. A survey of small-grain fields throughout Montana was conducted between 2008 and 2009. Cheatgrass was the most prevalent grassy weed and the most frequent viral host, with 6% infection by WSMV in 2008 (n = 125) and 15% in 2009 (n = 358). By mechanically inoculating plants with WSMV in the greenhouse, the highest susceptibility was found in rye brome (52.1%), jointed goatgrass (80.9%), and wild oat (53.9%. Quackgrass, not previously reported as a host, was susceptible to WSMV (12.7%). Mite transmission efficiency from susceptible grass species was lower than from wheat, and grass species must be a host for both WSMV and the WCM to serve as a virus source. WCM transmission was more efficient than mechanical transmission. Overall, results indicate that grass species can serve as a viral reservoir, regional variation in a weed species' susceptibility to WSMV cannot explain geographic variation in epidemic intensity, and crop species and closely related weeds (e.g., jointed goatgrass) remain the best reservoirs for both WSMV and the WCM.
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